Back for another race: Blain's Farm & Fleet Paddlers
Lance Rufledt is an assistant manager at Farm & Fleet in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. He also is the proud captain of Blain's Farm & Fleet Paddlers, the company's dragon boat team for the Half Moon Dragon Boat Festival. Rufledt is returning to fulfill his captain duties for a second year.
Blain's Farm & Fleet Paddlers made their dragon boat debut at the 2018 Half Moon Dragon Boat Festival. Rufledt had attended the Half Moon Dragon Boat Festival in the past but as a spectator on the shore of Half Moon Beach. He decided that it would be fun to get a team together and race across the water. Despite having no prior experience and paddling for the first time together, he thought they did really well.
"I got a team together from work, and we won fastest time of the day," Rufledt says proudly.
Rufledt and the Blain's Farm & Fleet Paddlers team are looking forward to returning for the second year. They hope to find success like 2018, but more importantly, they are looking forward to the fun and excitement, team camaraderie, and raising money for a good cause.
"The event is a great team-building activity and, overall, is a lot of fun for a group of people to do," Rufledt says. "It also supports cancer research. And a few of our store associates have been affected by cancer, so this event holds extra meaning for us."
A few new faces will be added to the team this year, but more than half of the paddlers from 2018 will return for another year of competition. Look for the Blain's Farm & Fleet Paddlers on August 3, at the Half Moon Dragon Boat Festival. They'll be wearing patriotic colors as they race across Half Moon Lake hoping to win fastest time for the second consecutive year.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PURPOSE OF THE DRAGON BOAT & THE IMPACT WITHIN THE COMMUNITY
Hope and heart: Living each day to the fullest with stage 4 ovarian cancer
They say life is made of small moments, but just one moment can change your life forever. At 52, Michelle Messer of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, was told she had an aggressive form of ovarian cancer — one of the deadliest cancers for women and for which there is no reliable test for early diagnosis.
When it was detected, her tumor was about the size of a pineapple.
“I remember sitting there thinking, now I know why my right hip hurts — because it’s my right ovary,” Michelle says. She also had experienced lower back pain and bloating. Suddenly, all the symptoms added up.
When she was diagnosed by Suzette Peltier, M.D., a gynecologist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, Michelle was already at stage 4, meaning the cancer had spread. It had moved throughout her abdominal cavity, liver, lungs and colon.
Michelle’s husband, Shaun, says the news was devastating.
“That was probably the most crushing thing I have ever felt in my life,” Shaun says.
Then the couple had to break the news to their two adult sons and young daughter.
“How do you tell a 13-year old her mother might not be here in a year or two?” Shaun says.
The couple’s daughter, Hannah, knew something was wrong when she came home from school and found her parents sitting on the couch.
“I told her I had cancer,” Michelle says. “She started crying and said: ‘No,’ and she fell to the ground. What can you do? The only thing you can do is hug them,” Michelle says.
NO TIME TO LOSE
After the tears and initial shock subsided, the entire family quickly moved into action mode. Within three days, Dr. Peltier arranged for Michelle to be seen by specialists at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. After rounds of tests, Francis Nichols, M.D., a thoracic surgeon, performed Michelle’s first surgery to remove cancer from her lungs.
It was a fearful time, but Michelle and her medical team remained positive. Dr. Nichols told her, “We’re going for the gold, and this is the Olympics.”
“Statements like that when you are so fearful are empowering,” Michelle says.
Two weeks later, while still recovering, Michelle underwent a nine-hour abdominal surgery, performed by Carrie Langstraat, M.D., a gynecological oncologist, which included a full hysterectomy. The tumor was removed, along with her gallbladder, part of her colon and dozens of lymph nodes.
Michelle underwent chemotherapy every week for nearly eight months at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, close to her home. It was grueling, she says. She lost her hair and energy, but she never lost hope. Michelle credits her medical team, along with many fierce, loyal friends and family who served as her support system, for helping her hold onto hope during this challenging time.
Michelle went into remission, though with stage 4, she knew she would never really be considered cured. Her hair grew back. Then one day, a year and a half after her initial diagnosis, she felt a lump on her neck. It was a recurrence of the ovarian cancer.
That meant more surgery and chemo, and losing her hair again. The treatment was even harder on Michelle’s body the second time, but hope persisted for Michelle and her oncology team. Michelle recalls a tough chemo day when Sandeep Basu, M.D., her oncologist, stopped in to see her.
“I smiled and said: ‘I’m faking it ‘till I make it,’” Michelle says. “He kind of cocked his head and said: ‘You’ve already made it.’” Michelle says Dr. Basu’s daily support was a huge source of hope.
Michelle says she is forever thankful for the support she received from Dr. Peltier the day she learned she had cancer. She recently had a chance to reconnect with Dr. Peltier — five years later — and tell her how important that moment was.
“It’s very humbling,” says Dr. Peltier, fighting back tears. “I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to see somebody five years out from stage 4 ovarian cancer.”
“I think Mayo Clinic has all the pieces,” Michelle says. “They have the heart. They have the intelligence. They have the professionalism. They’re efficient, but they also have that warmth — that humanness about them. I would highly recommend them. They saved my life.”
Return of the Dragons
Five years ago, a new invasive species swam into Half Moon Lake. Forty feet long with brightly colored scales, it was sleek and swift with bulging eyes, flared nostrils and a toothy grin. The dragons of the lake had arrived in the Chippewa Valley as part of the inaugural Half Moon Dragon Boat Festival.
Raising money for cancer programs
Sponsored and hosted by Mayo Clinic Health System, the event initially raised money for hospice programs. Fast forward to 2018, and the fundraising focus switched to cancer programs and continues with this focus at this year’s event on Saturday, Aug. 3.
“We know there is a significant need for local cancer support service funding,” explains Renelle Laffe from Hope in the Valley, which is a Chippewa Valley-based nonprofit cancer advocacy organization. “Bringing the community together to support this need in a fun, deeply meaningful way is both powerful and healing.”
The Half Moon Dragon Boat Festival is going strong as a joint partnership between Mayo Clinic Health System and Hope in the Valley. The mission and goals of this year’s event are to:
Half of the proceeds will benefit the Albert J. and Judith A. Dunlap Cancer Center at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, and half will benefit local cancer service organizations and charity care. The proceeds will be given in person on the Day of Giving Hope, which is Dec. 2.
Why dragon boat racing?
Equal parts sporting event and spectacle, dragon boat racing is a team sport that has its roots in ancient China. In the last 30 years, dragon boat racing has been revitalized and is one of the
fastest growing water sports in the world. Each brightly colored dragon boat is propelled by a crew of 20 paddlers, a drummer and steer person working together as a team to finish the race.
In addition to the excitement of watching and cheering for the dragon boats as they race to the finish line, the festival also includes music and a variety of tasty food vendors to enjoy. The Half Moon Dragon Boat Festival is a high-energy, fun-filled day — proven by being voted the Best Sports/Recreation Event (non-run/walk) in Volume One’s Best of the Chippewa Valley Reader Poll three years in a row.
But don’t take our word for it. Check out the hype and fun for yourself. Register a team to paddle, sign up to volunteer or attend as a spectator. The Half Moon Dragon Boat Festival will be held Saturday, Aug. 3 at Half Moon Beach. More information is available at halfmoondragonboat.org.